Wednesday, March 3, 2010

BOOKMARK: FIRST PAGES

Muy Importante!

If you are in the revision stage and trying to get your novel ready for 'ither eyes', you need to take a look at the fabulous list of elements to avoid in your first 50 pages which blogger Lindsey Edwards of The Write Words has compiled. Go directly to her blog. *looks bossy* Remember, revising isn't just about running find/replace searches for adverbs and words from the naughty list (was, been, felt, almost, very, practically, almost, etc).

Personally speaking, these following are things I'm spotting in my own writing (currently BSW) as I revise and rewrite:

Every paragraph seems to start with the same word.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I wrote a 4000 word chapter yesterday and felt quite smug about it... until I glanced over the chapter as a whole and noticed all of the paragraphs which started with the progagonist's name, or "she". Ghastly! <- Guess what I'll be editing later today. Blegh. T_T


Unnecessary sentences.

This is something I'm paying attention to both while I'm writing and also when I'm editing. Because I'm writing a YA book, I know I need to keep the writing tight and the pace fast. You don't want to keep saying the same thing over and over again, or tell the reader something that you already made clear by the situation or the characters' actions.

Too much emphasis on the mundane.

This is the reason why I cut an entire chapter a couple days ago (this is the chapter I wrote fresh yesterday). Every scene should be crafted with the objective of furthering the plot. I told myself that I didn't need to take the reader through a full school day with the protagonist, because most people already know full well what school is like. Cut the scene focuses down to those where SOMETHING HAPPENS. Even when you are providing a setting and trying to put a reader there in the classroom with your character. You shouldn't have scenes where nothing happens except for the character describing the four walls of the classroom, the smell of lysol and erasers, tables and chairs, sounds of students shuffling about and breathing. Even if you provide details like that in a scene, there needs to be a bigger plot FOCUS. Something that happens outside the norm.

Too much back story.

Yep. This is something I'll be doing in the next revision round, though I did make a lot of progress this time around. Initially, I dedicated half the first chapter to explaining why the characters were in boarding school and what life was like there in BS and other background stuff like that before I moved on with the story.

Back story is important, but you need to keep it tight and you want to provide it in pieces instead of all at once.

Stiff conversation between characters.

*NODS GUILTILY* I had that problem with the protagonist and some of the other characters. It reminded me of playing dolls with my niece when she was small and shy about getting into total doll-playing mode.

It was a lot of:

"Hi, how are you?"
"I'm fine. Nice weather we have outside, huh?"
"Yes. I like your dress."
"Why thank you. I like your dress too."

[awkward silence while dolls are moved around to different standing positions]

"Well, I have to go now. Bye."
"OK. Bye."

[end of scene]

[[[Giggles]]]

The worst is dialogue like this gets filed under mundane and unnecessary sentences, as mentioned above. Like everything else, dialogue needs to serve a purpose.

The way to fix this... I saw somewhere around the web somebody said to write the dialogue first and not worry about it. As you revise, you can add the dialogue beats or actions. And you can touch up on the dialogue itself, making it less robotic.

Just food for thought and kudos to Lindsey for posting that list. It does help - especially if you are new at this and don't know where to begin.

3 comments:

  1. Awesome post! It's going to be super helpful when I get to this point. Loved the doll reference. ROFL.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Tina - and have fun when you get to the revisions point<:

    Heh. I wasn't kidding about the dolls. Some of the conversations between character X and character Y in my current wip really were that bad. :]

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yep, also ticking all those boxes. Especially the starting the paragraph (and even almost every sentence) with MC name or she. Red pen out again!

    ReplyDelete

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